Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


interest created by this that probably suggested his first educational
venture. Improving on the practice of the neighbouring fanners
who were accustomed to get orphan children to work for them,
Pestalozzi instituted what he hoped would be a self-supporting
industrial school with twenty destitute children. His idea was
that they should do field work in the summer, and weaving and
spinning in the winter, and that in the intervals of work and even
while at work, they should get instruction in reading, writing, and
arithmetic. To carry out this plan he " lived for years like a beggar
among beggars, in order to teach them to live like men "; but in
the end the scheme broke down in bankruptcy.

For the next twenty years Pestalozzi confined himself to the
writing of books and pamphlets on various social topics, and
especially on education. His most important work was a didactic-
novel called Leonard and Gertrude, the first volume of which
appeared in 1781. The story was about the village life that
Pestalozzi knew so well. Gertrude, the wise mother of the tale,
keeps her children busy spinning cotton, and trains their minds
and characters by her motherly talks about the circumstances of
their lives. Her own equipment as a teacher is very meagre, but,
as the result proves, amply sufficient. Her method of teaching is
quite simple. She instructs them in arithmetic, for example, by
making them count the steps across the room, the number of panes
in the window, etc. In the same way, she leads them to distinguish
" long " and " short," " narrow " and " wide/' " round " and
" angular," and encourages them to observe exactly all the things
around them, such as the action of fire, water, air, and smoke*
When a school is established in the village in consequence of her
example, the same methods are adopted there. The spinning-
wheel has a place of honour in it, and the children areTtaught much
as Gertrude's children had been taught. The kind of instruction
in the true school, Pestalozzi mates Gertrude say, does not differ
from that of the home : the only difference is the wider range of

The publication si Leonard and Gertrude brought Pestalozzi to
the notice of all who were seriously concerned with the problems
of peasant life, and princes and noblemen in Germany, Austria,
and Italy came to consult him about educational and social
reform. It also brought him the friendship of some distinguished
men, among them the philosopher Fichte, who was afterwards